I had spent months staring at a photo I took on the Thai island of Koh Phag Ngan many (full) moons ago. I had tacked it to the wall of my cubicle and had been letting my mind wander to the soft, sandy beaches of the island paradise and the feel of the warm sun on my skin as I sat on the porch of my beach-side bungalow, eating pad thai and drinking fruit shakes.
In the photo, it was late afternoon on Haad Rin. The American and I were young and happy. Smiles, unblemished skin, absence of wrinkles. A memory of happier, simple, carefree times. I wanted that freedom back of having no strings, no commitments, no pressing cares. And this time around we had a plan to improve ourselves, to eat better and learn new skills. This was our time to get back out on the Banana Pancake trail and live the impromptu lives of ‘world travellers’ once again. Sounds like heaven, right?
But a picture of an exotic land away from the harsh fluorescent lights and the demands of regular life is one thing. In reality, it turned out to be everything I didn’t want. The American was as crook as Rookwood. I was being eaten alive by gigantic mosquitoes and dealing with bogans. And then, without warning, we were living without both power and running water in a hot and humid climate with no wind. This was not the ‘paradise’ I had imagined when daydreaming in my cubicle in Oakland.
Since we arrived in Singapore a few weeks ago, things had been going downhill. No matter where I found myself, I just couldn’t get comfortable. We tried different spots on the island, but it didn’t alter the situation. Nothing felt right. Within me, there was a melancholy and a voice telling me that this wasn’t going to work. I’d had my heart set on these bloody islands, but it was just not working for us. We had to get off the island!
We made our way from the islands on the bus-ferry-bus-bus-and then overnight bus to Bangkok, and everything was still going wrong for us. In Bangkok, same same. I was getting more down about the situation and the American was withdrawing entirely from conversation. So essentially it was just me, trying to make myself feel okay and make it sound like everything is rainbows and unicorns. Because it totally wasn’t.
“Ugh! Here I am, on extended holiday, doing what others would kill to do, and I am miserable and unhappy and completely hating my life right now!”.
I felt the shame of being such an ungrateful suburban twat, and was really questioning if I have ever really been happy anywhere. In fact, I felt as though the whole trip was just one big, fat flop and I was the world’s biggest idiot. I wallowed in self-pity for a while, and then we enacted Plan C: All we needed to do to (hopefully!) save this trip was to reach Chiang Mai. If things were not working out for us in Chiang Mai, then we’re on the next plane out of here. Deep down, I was not ready to give up on the adventure. I am obviously a sadist, because then we almost died in a bus fire on the dreadful overnight bus to Chiang Mai. True story. Grab some popcorn and settle in to read more about that here.
So with a little down time here in Chiang Mai (and fewer things trying to kill us), we’re already liking life much better up here in the mountains. The American and I have recommenced communication, our clothes have been washed and we’re staying in a cute little guesthouse run by a spunky woman in her 40s. Still being eaten by mozzies, but that’s par for the course. They love the European blood. So we’ll see how much we like Chiang Mai, but already, it’s another world up here. I think we’ll unpack and stick around, and see if we can rekindle our love of Thailand.